DULUTH, Minn. — No. 13 Colorado College put the power back into its power play Friday night, converting three of its five opportunities en route to a 4-1 WCHA victory over Minnesota-Duluth.
Alex Kim led the way for the Tigers, registering three points (1g, 2a), while Jeff Sanger rejected 18 of the Bulldogs’ 19 shots to give CC its sixth conference victory in its last eight outings.
It was by far Colorado College’s best effort with the man-advantage since they spotted four extra-man goals against UMass-Amherst back on October 20. In fact, the three power-play goals Friday night were more than the Tigers had combined to score throughout their previous nine games.
Peter Sejna scored the game-winner with less than six minutes to play in the second period, in what was CC’s first man-advantage goal on the evening. Tigers head coach Scott Owens said Sejna played a big part in his recent revamping of the power-play unit.
“We got Sejna in the middle; he’s usually down low along the goal line,” said Owens. “He’s so strong and he has such a good shot, we just decided we were gonna try to do something different and go from there.”
Sejna’s goal, like all others on the evening for CC, came on a one-timer below the top of the faceoff circle. After receiving a pass from Tom Preissing, Alex Kim fed Sejna between the hash marks, and Sejna relayed it past Adam Coole’s glove for his tenth goal on the season.
The Tigers had to rally after falling behind 1-0 in the first period. They came back with two goals each in the second and third periods.
A bright spot for UMD would be the play of Coole. Duluth was outshot 34-19; however, several of Coole’s 30 saves were spectacular.
Coole was making his first start between the pipes since Nov. 30, and seemed to be making a statement that he didn’t want to wait so long for his next one. One stop during the second period, where he faced a total of 16 shots, came when he gloved Trent Clark’s shot as he was lying on his stomach. Coole also stretched his legs to deny James Laux when he walked in untouched from the blue line.
“4-1 is at least somewhat respectable, because it could have easily been 8 or 9-1 [without] some of the saves that he made,” said Bulldog head coach Scott Sandelin. “I’m not happy — I think it was one of the worst games we played in a long time. It’s tough for me to swallow because every guy [on UMD] can play better and we didn’t come to play tonight for 60 minutes.”
The 19-shot effort for UMD comes a week after it outshot Boston College 51-29 in a losing effort during the championship game of the Silverado Shootout.
UMD’s opening period tally came despite some subdued play by the Bulldogs. A power play of their own during the opening minutes yielded no scoring chances, in fact almost all of the play was in the neutral zone.
Duluth gave the home crowd of 3,106 at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center its biggest cheer of the night during its second man-advantage situation. Tom Nelson, of Superior, Wis., scored his tenth goal of the season, ironically while a former youth hockey teammate sat in the penalty box. CC’s Trent Clark had been whistled for holding just 30 seconds before the goal.
Nelson was set up by Andy Reierson and Judd Medak. Reierson started the play when his shot from the blue line hit Medak in the mid-section as he stood in front of the net. The puck then bounced toward Nelson, who was positioned just to the right of the crease, and he flipped it into the net for his eighth goal of the year at the first period’s 14:48 mark. Officials debated whether Medak used an illegal hand pass on the play, but decided to let the goal stand.
It would be UMD’s only tally on five power-play opportunities; and Reierson’s assist allowed him to extend his point streak to five games.
From there, however, it was all Colorado College.
CC tied the game early in the second thanks to some fancy puckwork by Chris Hartsburg and Alex Kim. The pair seemed to make the UMD defenders stand still as they traded passes in the Bulldog zone. Kim finally set up Hartsburg when he carried the puck from the left wing boards to the adjacent face-off circle and dished it to the slot where Hartsburg relayed it by Coole for a 1-1 score at the 5:13 mark.
Hartsburg’s goal, his fourth of the year, turned out to be the only 5-on-5 goal in the hockey game.
The Tigers followed up with two more quick-release goals in the third period. Both Laux and Kim scored goals that ended up getting just underneath the cross-bar. Laux scored his second of the campaign at the 6:52 mark while Kim’s tally was his eighth at the 11:28 mark.
Owens says he wanted his team to try to shoot the puck a little quicker.
“Last weekend (at the Badger Showdown) we had 100 shots on goal and scored five times,” said Owens.
“One of our points of emphasis this week is the quick strikes, quick release, shooting off the pass, trying to do some things to quicken things up and the guys, I think, did a pretty good job responding to that.”
UMD did have scoring opportunities during the final period. A flurry in front of the CC net ended up with Tyler Brosz losing his balance and knocking the net loose just as the puck was about to cross the goal line. And Nelson found himself with the puck in the same position from where he scored in the first period, only to find the second chance go off the side of the net.
The victory improves Colorado College’s WCHA record to 6-6-1 (10-7-2 overall), and moves the Tigers into a tie for fourth place in the conference with Wisconsin. Meanwhile, UMD remains winless and in the league’s basement with an 0-10-1 record (7-13-1 overall).
The teams will conclude their two-game series Saturday night in Duluth.